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John Henry tips his cap

Red Sox owner John Henry has reiterated his suggestion that Major League Baseball ought to adopt a salary cap. And I hope other owners are listening.

It says something when baseball's second highest-spending team suggests that something needs to be done to level the playing field and improve the competitive balance of the game. In the age of the wild card, the Red Sox could afford to try to buy their way into the playoffs every year, no matter what the Yankees do. But it hurts baseball as a whole -- even the good teams -- when so many teams are out of realistic contention by the middle of the year. No matter how pretty the uniforms and ballparks are, fans are going to come out to see perpetual losers -- well, besides the Cubs. But that's a whole different mentality.

In the past, I was opposed to a cap because I don't care for the way the National Football League's program forces teams to get rid of players they would otherwise prefer to keep in order to stay on the right side of the cap. But baseball has a chance to start from scratch. And they ought to use it in a way that promotes player development by giving teams an advantage to keep their homegrown players.

And any cap needs to be tied to revenue sharing. If the big boys' profitability is more closely tied to the small market teams drawing fans, they're less likely to try to slant the playing field in their direction.

We'll never see complete revenue sharing like in the NFL when each baseball team negotiates its own local broadcasting contracts. But any step they can make toward parity in revenue is a step in the right direction.

The current "luxury tax" system doesn't work at all. If you look at Forbes Magazine's annual stories about the most profitable teams, it's the Marlins and Pirates of the world who pocket the most money. The cash they get from the big fish isn't being plowed into players. It's going straight into their pockets. And, in a way, who could blame them? If they get $15 million from the high rollers, will it really change the Pirates' fortunes that much to raise their payroll from $40 million to $55 million when the Yankees are spending $225 million?

Some of the smallest market teams are some of the best team builders. Montreal would have been a dynasty in the 1990s if the team didn't have to sell off the fruits of its farm system to the highest bidder.

The players have made their money. It's time to give something back to the owners -- and to the fans -- by allowing teams the ability to hold onto their best players in effort to try to become more competitive. 

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